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Right on, Way off: Will Acta be fired before the season ends?

Right on, Way off: Will Acta be fired before the season ends?
August 24, 2012
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With every day that ends in another loss the Tribe gets closer and closer to the cellar in the American League central. It’s hard to believe that not so long ago Cleveland sat atop the division. And when the lead slipped out of their grasp plenty of hope still remained that the Indians could add a right-handed bat to keep their playoff hopes alive.

Unfortunately, the wheels fell off and the wagon tumbled end over end in a stupefying display of implosion. So, many have started to peek at what may lie ahead in 2013 and what kind of changes may take place along the way. Let’s examine a few changes that could be in store for an organization that has nothing, if not hope.

Acta will get the ax by season’s end

Right on: Making a legitimate change, like removing Manny Acta from managerial duties, will send the message to fans that the organization is not accepting of perpetual losing. It’ll definitely serve as a bone to the many Tribe fans who are thirsty for blood, as many are becoming increasingly displeased with ownership and management. Pinning some of the failure on Acta, however just it may be, seems to be the much more plausible option than purging the front office or selling the team. Acta, who has a .421 career winning percentage to go along with never having a winning season certainly has no reason not to expect the cries calling for his job, as the Indians have endured consecutive season-crippling swoons.

To properly start the much-needed rebuilding process, it’s imperative that Cleveland cleans house, and what better place to start than with the manager, who has been accused of losing control of his clubhouse. At the very least, it doesn’t appear that Indians players are buying into his system or its chances of yielding success. Former pitching coach Scott Radinsky already got the boot, so the front office is obviously willing to make changes, especially considering Radinsky didn’t even make it a full season at his post. It’s stubborn to tie oneself to some imaginary limited window of contention; this team simply has too many holes: two to three front-end starting pitchers and three to four every day position players.

And for the record, it makes little sense to buy into CEO Paul Dolan’s recent comments that team president Mark Shapiro, general manager Chris Antonetti, and manager Manny Acta’s jobs are all safe, in spite of the horrific second-half collapse. For one, he made these comments at Acta’s bowling charity fundraiser. Secondly, he went on to elaborate that he’s trying to figure out how the team collapsed, stating that "It's going to take more time to assess what we have and what we need and what we're capable of doing”. These are explicitly alarming comments from the team’s CEO, one who you’d imagine would have a pretty good grasp as to why this season ended in an even worse fiery crash than last season’s tumble. These comments do as little to affirm fan faith in the front office, as they do guarantee Acta’s job security.

Way off: Firing Acta before the end of the season does little for the fate of the remainder of 2012. It would actually only serve as a catalyst for ongoing turmoil in the organization. If the higher-ups deem Acta as unfit to continue as manager, then the proper time to relieve him and hire his successor would be in the offseason. The roster he’s been given to work with has failed miserably in living up to expectations. With a failed trade (i.e. Ubaldo Jimenez), underachieving, injuries, and little success garnered from players that were brought in during the past offseason it’s clear that Acta never had a legitimate chance to succeed with the personnel he was given.

Firing him now, in-season, concedes that Cleveland is in the initial stages of yet another rebuilding process. Instead of blowing up the roster, the Tribe should build around its core pieces to plug the holes in the roster. There is already a very solid foundation in middle of the field, manned by Carlos Santana, Jason Kipnis, Asdrubal Cabrera, and Michael Brantley, all of whom are key cogs in the lineup, as well as capable defenders.

Furthermore, firing Acta is injust because it excuses the organization’s ability to consistently scout and develop its own talent. Of the 25 players on the current roster, only six were drafted or initially signed and developed by Cleveland (Kipnis, Allen, Sipp, Pestano, Hernandez, Hermann). And of those six, really only two or three of them are plus assets for the team’s plans moving forward. It is simply impossible for the Tribe to be competitive if they can’t produce their own homegrown talent. Relying on trades, some of which have surely been wildly successful, won’t always work, as you can’t win every swap.

Call it public relations damage control if you wish, but the bottom line is the CEO just came out publicly and said that Acta isn’t in any danger of losing his job. Finally, Acta gets an unfair shake from Tribe fans because he’s perceived as subdued, even bland. Any assertions for him to lose his job are just being made as a knee-jerk reaction to the unfortunate second-half nosedive.

Verdict: Right on, Acta has lost control of his team and the only move is to clean house and start fresh with a new voice. He’s never had a winning season and simply blaming the second consecutive post-All Star break swoon on a bad hand is irresponsible; this team has its holes, but it’s not 4-21 bad.

Zeke Carrera should start in left field the rest of 2012

Right on: Given the competition on the 40-man roster that Carrera currently faces for playing time in left field, the only beneficial move is to give the 25 year old Venezuelan a chance to prove himself. Brent Lillibridge, Shelley Duncan, and Vinnie Rottino are all journeymen, who offer little more than bench filler. Therefore, in no way should they siphon playing time from a player who very well may be part of the long-term solution in left field. Even though it’s only been 53 at-bats, Zeke has a .321 batting average, after hitting .294 in 394 at-bats in Columbus this season.

Carrera offers the Indians a much-needed injection of speed, as their middle-of-the-road team steals total of 82 could use a speedster to put the pressure on opposing defenses. He already has three swipes with the big league club, after racking up 26 stolen bags with the Clippers. With speed and the ability to lay down a bunt, Cleveland could only stand to gain by seeing what they have in Carrera by playing him in left the last several weeks of the season. He’s the only left field option with any chance of long-term starting potential, and even though some are skeptical about his ability to contribute on an everyday basis, he’s climbed every ladder of the minors to earn a shot after going undrafted.

If the team’s brass thought a player like Tim Fedroff was ready, then he’d already be with the Indians. Remember, Matt LaPorta has also posted all-world numbers against triple-A pitching, too.

Way off: Carrera supporters must remember that this is the same player who hit .243 last season in 202 at-bats with the Tribe. He offers little in the way of offensive pop, evidenced by his soft .349 career major league slugging percentage. The lack of power from the corner infielders, as well as missing Hafner in the designated hitter spot, necessitates that whoever is playing in left has some power. Also, he’s yet another lefty, and Cleveland desperately needs to foster success from its right-handed options, namely Shelley Duncan, who has the pop the team needs.

Duncan has eleven homers in 222 at-bats, so detractors who point to his .203 season batting average must remember that he’s being expected to hit for power, not average. The real answer in left field, for the rest of 2012 and beyond, is fellow 25 year old Tim Fedroff. The Columbus left fielder has a .324 batting average and a blistering .934 OPS, painfully meriting a shot to succeed at the big league level. He’s an unknown commodity, so to lump him in with LaPorta is unfair. Carrera likely isn’t capable of doing enough with the bat to merit starting duties. One could argue that Zeke is a mini-journeyman, as he’s had stints in the Mets and Mariners organizations.

Verdict: Way off, Fedroff has done more than enough to be given a look in left field. Carrera could still be used in the DH spot, in order to give both youngsters a chance to see if they can be part of the long-term plans.

Masterson should be reinserted in the ‘pen

Right on: With the wildly varying peaks and valleys in Justin Masterson’s 2012 season, it’s clear that he still has yet to put it together as a top of the rotation starter. Not only has he not been a #1 or #2, he’s not proven himself to be guaranteed a rotation spot, with his unflattering 4.73 ERA. If it weren’t for the simultaneous calamity that has struck the rotation, Masterson’s numbers would attract much more scrutiny. The regression he’s showing this season is alarming for a 27 year old in his 5th major league season. If he hasn’t harnessed it yet, when will he? The biggest reason he needs bumped to the bullpen is his difficulty against left-handed hitters.

A quick look at walks and lefty-righty splits:

70 BB in 161.2 IP
vs LH - .284/ .377/.440
vs RH - .227/ .305/ .303

65 BB in 216 IP
vs LH - .286/ .331/ .415
vs RH - .209/ .300/ .259

Masterson’s WAR is 2.1 in 2012, compared to 4.9 in 2011. He’s already allowed more walks this season in much fewer innings pitched, as he has issued the 5th-most free passes in the American League. He also allows way too many steals (19, 3rd most in the AL), so the best way to utilize Masterson would be to use him to shore up some of the middle and long relief issues in the bullpen. He could fortify an already impressive component to the team, giving the Tribe one true lockdown strength, led by Perez, Pestano, Smith, Allen, and Rogers.

Finally, any argument excusing the excessive walks as a byproduct of the sharp movement on his pitches is off-base because the bottom line is he’s giving up way too many walks, as well as the 6th- most earned runs in the American League (85). He has experience in the bullpen, and placing him there would give him the best chance to disguise his struggles against lefties.

Way off: It would be absurd for a team that is desperately starved for starting pitching to relocate Masterson in the bullpen. They already are forced to regularly start Corey Kluber; who takes Masterson’s spot? Chris Seddon? With Josh Tomlin undergoing Tommy John surgery and Carlos Carassco coming off the same procedure, the starting rotation has major question marks heading into 2013, so moving Masterson to an already capable bullpen only makes the rotation that much weaker. Fans must remember that this is the same Masterson that has a 3.21 ERA in 2011 and a resounding complete game victory against a potent Cincinnati Reds lineup to cap off a sweep of the intrastate rivals.

Observers still seem to not grasp that Masterson has more than the usual amount of movement on his pitches, so to treat him like a straightforward pitch-to-contact pitcher, like Zach McAllister is erroneous. Masterson relies on sharp movement on his sinker and slider to induce ground balls; therefore, as a result, he will throw more balls than McAllister. Sure, something has obviously been off about this season for Masterson, but clearly the front office believes that the troubles very well could stem from issues with former pitching coach Scott Radinsky.

Quitting on a 27 year old pitcher with the potential and flashes of dominance he has shown is shortsighted, especially if the team plans to part ways with Ubaldo Jimenez. It will be awfully difficult to convince Masterson to sign a long term deal with Cleveland if he’s being relegated to the bullpen on a team that is clearly in need of rebuilding, or at the very least some significant retooling.

Verdict: Right on, the issues against left-handed hitters, coupled with the severe regression this season dictate that Masterson would be better served in the bullpen. Give Scott Barnes a handful of audition starts over the last month and see if he could be an answer moving forward.

User Comments

Jerry Brenner
August 25, 2012 - 7:08 PM EDT
"... this team has its holes, but it’s not 4-21 bad.."
Yes, yes, it is minus a healthy Hafner, Sizemore, Chisenhall and Tomlin. Abaldo is Antonetti's fault and having to consistently play Duncan, Hannahan, and Kotchman essentially means it is a whole, bad team with problems. Why, why is this Acta's fault?
Jerry Brenner
August 25, 2012 - 7:03 PM EDT
Acta stays, Fedroff comes, Antonetti and Shapiro go.
August 25, 2012 - 4:31 PM EDT
No one knows what Acta can do with a decent major league roster. The roster he worked with in Washington was the poorest in baseball. And the roster he has been given to work with in Cleveland is also the poorest in baseball, excluding maybe the Astros, who would have trouble beating Triple A teams. The fact that he managed the lot to 45-41 in H1 indicates he is able to get the best out of a poor line-up- for a while. THE BLAME AS WELL AS THE AXE MUST FALL ON CHRIS ANTONETTI. Fat contracts to Hafner, Sizemore and Santana- I don't care what you say Santana is not a productive everyday player at the plate or at any position. Hafner and Sizemore both took lots of drugs, ruined their bodies and Antonetti still wrote them big checks. He signed stiffs like Kotchman, Hannahan and Duncan as position players, even though the numbers as well as the eyes said these guys were not as good as the players playing their positions are on other teams in the division and in the league. He traded 3 young up and coming major league starters for Ubaldo Jiminez and Lars Anderson. He signed Derek Lowe to "anchor" the staff and Johnny Damon to "anchor" the outfield. He counted on Masterson as an ace starter even though every scout in the league had said Masterson's delivery was too inconsistent to be useful as anything but a short reliever. I could go on and on, you're probably all tired of hearing it. When I heard Antonetti was bringing up LaPorta yesterday to " see what he could do" I didn't know whether to laugh or cry. All the other GM's and managers in the league know what he can do-- .230-240, 12 HR, lots of K's and GIDP's and below average defense. Everybody knows but Antonetti, who has seen him more than anybody. Valentine is gone at Boston. They are talking to Farrell. Dolan needs to be talking to Farrell
August 25, 2012 - 10:34 AM EDT
Changed my mind on Acta. Want to keep him because his ineptitude is improving our draft position with every loss. Masterson should stay as a starter, at least until the new pitching coach, the one they hire in the off-season, not Niebla, has a chance to work with him. Definitely agree with the Fedroff/Zeke platoon between LF/DH for the remainder of the season. Fedroff usually needs an adjustment period when he's promoted so we might as well get it over with this season. For those oposed to a complete house cleaning in the FO, sans Brad Grant, is there anything going on that indicates that a Tribe of Chimpanzees replacing the current regime would make the situation worse?
August 25, 2012 - 8:11 AM EDT
The mgr is only as good as the talent he is given. I had supported CA until this season.
I believe the answer is to clean house in the front office I think Alomar gets his chance to manage with Omar Vizquel as his bench coach. Ok probably not. But there will be changes in FO and the coaching staff.
Hopefully there is enough sense to keep Brad Grant.
August 25, 2012 - 7:27 AM EDT
The owner just said he doesn't understand why the team collapsed, they're going to thoroughly study it during the off-season, and nobody is getting fired until they complete their analysis. Maybe I'm being naive, but it sounds like Acta is safe through the end of the season. What would it accomplish to fire him now. Send a message to the fans? The fans don't want a message, they want results.

I don't see any point in playing Duncan or Hafner the rest of the season. Might as well play Fedroff and Carerra at LF and DH. They could also try Fedrofff in center and let Brantley DH. We'll need a 4th OF who can play CF next year.

Masterson to the bullpen? Please. We're desparately short of quality starters and loaded with good right-handed arms in the bullpen with more coming up in the farm system. Masterson had a 3.21 ERA as a starter last year. He had a bad year in 2012 but some of that is due to the change in the pitching coach and Asdrubal's defensive problems.
August 25, 2012 - 1:24 AM EDT
Barnes has not pitched well this season.
Masterson is strong, and he can be an innings eater.
Masterson is a potentially very good, 4th or 5th starter.
Now if we could only fill the first three spots.
Jaleel White
August 25, 2012 - 12:15 AM EDT
Andrew, I also disagree and believe that Masterson must remain a starter. However, you write, "You're suggestion for putting Masterson in the bullpen is the most retarded thing I've read on this site." Not sure that it's fair to throw out a derogatory term like that just because you disagree with the writer's opinion. Seems kind of childish.

But then again, in your post you used the wrong word, you're, instead of your. You're is in fact the contracted form of you are. Does that make you the term that you used to describe Adam's writing? No. It just means you have English comprehension on the same level as a first grader.
August 25, 2012 - 12:05 AM EDT
I disagree on Masterson as well as in the Indians' case, he has to be a starter. That said, if Masterson were pitching for a team a little deeper in the rotation, I think there would be some strong consideration for him to move to the pen. But for a team desperate for starting pitching there is no way the Indians can afford to move him to the bullpen. I wouldn't go so far as to call it ridiculous to say he should go to the pen, but it is definitely something I disagree with and everyone has a right to their opinion. As far as the other two points go, I agree that Acta probably gets canned before the season ends and it will be interesting to see how they handle Carrera down the stretch.
August 24, 2012 - 11:45 PM EDT
The part about Masterson is nuts! Just crazy! So a team deep in relief options and thin on starting is going to move their best starter from last season the the pen...and pay him starters $$?! Nuts. Crazy. You need to rethink that...especially when you think about paying 5 million for a middle reliever you don't even need...not to mention you would kill any trade value he has. WOW. I can't believe they let you post that. Blown away
August 24, 2012 - 10:39 PM EDT
Quite possibly one of the worst and most ridiculous articles ever posted on this site. It's like you're just trying to put a few stats up here and be outrageous.

The Masterson comments were fine until you agreed that he should go into the pen. Do you realize how close he is to being a top tier starter in this league? Power sinker guys that also strike people out are tough to find in this league.
August 24, 2012 - 4:18 PM EDT
The Masterson comment is absurd. You can't possibly believe that. Despite his rough year, he's still been their best starter. He's the only one on the staff who's managed a slightly positive bWAR. You're going to move him to a bullpen that doesn't even have a need for a right-handed reliever, since Pestano, Smith, Allen and Rogers have actually been good? Masterson may have issues against left handers, but Ubaldo, Kluber, Hernandez etc have issues against EVERYONE. I feel like you just threw that one out there to say something controversial, but statements like that just undermine your credibility across the board.
August 24, 2012 - 3:35 PM EDT
Please stop writing. You're suggestion for putting Masterson in the bullpen is the most retarded thing I've read on this site.
August 24, 2012 - 1:35 PM EDT
I would like to see both Zeke and Fedroff get a lot of at bats in September. Fedroff needs a chance and Zeke possess a skill set no one else on the team does. Without Carrerra who is the Tribe's pinch runner? Who can actually bunt? It would be nice to have a 4th outfielder who actually brings something to the table instead someone who is equally bad only right handed. So alternate him and Fedroff in LF and DH for the rest of the season. I like that idea.

You fire Acta but only after the season, unless he requests otherwise for some reason. He should not be disrespected for his nice effort, but has to be shown the door for the awful results. Fields should go too. Young hitters have regressed and I haven't seen any sort of remarkable planning process to approach this year. To be honest, I would love to see Sarbaugh get a chance, he seems to win with whatever is given to him and players seem to perform well under his guidance. He was also voted Manager most likely to get promoted by his International League peers. So they like him. I also hope they keep Niebla unless they can get Nagy or Belcher back.

I don't know anything about the GM market. As much as I would like new talent in the front office, who would that talent be? I don't know enough to figure out if that would be a good idea or not. Given the way our young international players have been playing, who ever is scouting them might be a good choice.
August 24, 2012 - 1:03 PM EDT
Have to strongly disagree on Masterson. His walk rate is alarming, but he throws enough first pitch strikes (actually at a higher rate than 2011) to believe that that number will come back to around 3 BB/9. His strikeout rate has also rebounded to above 2010 levels, which was a concern given that it fell in two consecutive years.

Justin has the 7th-highest GB rate in baseball, and the defense behind him ranks 25th in terms of UZR and 23rd in terms of Defensive Runs Saved. A GB-heavy pitcher is going to run into some issues when he has a horrible defense behind him. But it's not Justin's fault that the defense behind him has been so bad.

Bottom line is this...Justin's peripheral marks are considerably better than what his ERA indicates. If this team was loaded with upper level pitching prospects, it might be a different story, but Justin is one of the only SP's in this entire organization who has seen any amount of sustained success at this level.
August 24, 2012 - 12:55 PM EDT
Really going to be interesting to see what transpires with Acta between now and the beginning of the offseason. I think he is a dead man walking right now. No way they can bring him back, justified or not. But also interested to see what changes, if any, are made to the front office. Gonna be a lot of fans out for blood this offseason, and a lot of them season ticketholders. A lot of them are pissed and the owner may have to appease them and make some serious changes in order to keep them. We'll see.

As for Fedroff.....he absolutely deserves a shot. He should be a September callup when Columbus' season ends. If not then there is definitely something up with him (though I think he definitely gets an opp in Cleveland this September).
Bill M.
August 24, 2012 - 12:43 PM EDT
I agree with the decision to can Acta. Also Fedroff has done everything possible to warrant a call up. Cleveland treats this guy like a 40th round pick. This kid can play.

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